Riigikogu speaker: European Union flags likely back in chamber this week
Speaker of the Riigikogu and former prime minister Jüri Ratas (Center) says that the decision to bring the European Union flags back to the Riigikogu's white hall has already been made, adding he hopes the flags will be put back in place this week.
Ratas' predecessor as speaker, Henn Põlluaas (EKRE), started his tenure in the post, which he took up in spring 2019, with an order to remove the flags from the white hall (this also required Riigkogu backing, which was obtained by a margin of one vote - ed.).
Ratas, who was prime minister when Põlluaas was speaker, promised to bring the flags back if he were to become speaker, and as of now, that decision has been made.
"I hope that this week both the EU and Estonian flags will be side-by-side in the white hall. On the one hand, this is symbolically significant, but it is also important for me personally, and I don't understand why is there any debate over it," Ratas told Vikerraadio's morning program "Vikerhommik" Monday.
Põlluaas party, the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), is avowedly Eurosceptic, with founder and former leader Mart Helme recently calling for the formation of a Riigikogu group focused on an "Est-exit".
Ratas told "Vikerhommik" Monday morning that he was "completely convinced that Estonia's years in the EU have brought us lots of wealth and welfare, while at the same time we haven't started to lose our sovereignty."
Estonia joined the EU in 2004, following a referendum the previous year which saw around two-thirds of voters wanting to join the union. Latvia and Lithuania joined at the same time.
Mart Helme says he is making a plea for help against the federalization of Europe. He says the union is aiming to rewrite history and establish censorship. In his opinion, the European Commission is transforming itself into a European government.
Eurosceptics in Estonia and elsewhere often liken the EU to the Soviet Union.
Jüri Ratas also addressed those protesting against the Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act in Sunday's demonstration at Vabaduse väljak in Tallinn.
"I want to say here as well, please, let's take things very seriously. Restrictions on gathering aren't aimed at bullying anybody; on the contrary, it's caring in the crisis situation," Ratas said.
"The Police and Border Guard Board is doing very important and valuable work, and I think people should really follow the rules," Ratas said.
A social media post made by MP Marko Mihkelson (Reform) on Monday morning does indeed show that the EU flags, accompanied by Estonian flags, have been re-installed in the Riigikogu's White Hall.
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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Andrew Whyte